Ekko Park – Big Fan: May 10, 2024 (Concert Review)

Taking full advantage of the all ages entry, Ekko Park celebrated the release of their new EP, delivering a blistering and emotional set with support from some of Tāmaki Makaurau’s most promising Rangatahi; Fan Club and Where’s Jai.

Where’s Jai

Where's JaiNorth shore-based Where’s Jai kicked off proceedings, boasting groovy, often funky and occasionally ska inflected pop tunes. They reminded me of No Doubt in the more experimental years, but with a heavier use of clean guitar and wah-pedal.

The shared lead vocal duties made for a unique presence and sound; Grace leaning into youthful defiance, whereas Leigh conveying a more old-soul 70s vibe. Set closer Citrus Mistress effectively demonstrating their vocal alchemy and the band’s intuition for deep grooves. Check out their EP AVENUES which dropped last month.

Fan Club

Fan Club were up next. A four-piece making the most of their high school years, securing an NZ On Air grant, a SmokeFree Rockquest Auckland regional win, finalists of the Play It Fan ClubStrange Songwriting Competition and recently dropping a tune mixed by Seattle legend Barrett Jones.

My favourite part about witnessing Fan Club was the immediate recognition that they were a band with a clearly unified sound and aesthetic. They sounded uniquely like themselves, yet also drew from the grunge palette of Nirvana, the dreamy modern pop of Wolf Alice and the kiwi indie charm akin to The Beths.

Their stage performance confident and seemingly effortless. Tilly was on the bass, her eyes closed, detached and on her own plane without missing a note. Juxtaposed with the frenetic punk rock energies of Caleb on the 6 string and Tom behind the kit.

Celebrating her 17th birthday last night, frontwoman Emma was in fine voice. She’s able to yell where the emphasis required or lean powerfully into the deeper, more textured qualities of her voice.

I found myself humming along to melodies and singing words by the second chorus of songs that were new to me. Fan Club have a genuine knack for the ear-worms.

I recommend the singles Westbound and Never Ever as appropriate starting places for the different shades of music that this band can serve up. Highly recommended, I look forward to seeing them again.

Ekko Park

I was a Big Fan (see what I did there?) of Ekko Park’s 2022 EP UNMUTE. A collection of direct tunes boasting memorable hooks. That EP was straight up fun. Fast forward to 2024, the new EP LET’S TALK ABOUT LAST NIGHT…THE END OF THE WORLD demonstrates Ekko Park utilizing a greater sense of dynamics. More builds of tension and release, creative arrangements that retain the hooks. They have set a high bar for themselves with such a reflective and driven collection of songs. I’m pleased to report that they played the hell out of each of them during last night’s set.

Ekko ParkOn stage, Ekko Park consists of frontman Joe on vocal and guitars, longtime drummer Nick, blue haired lead guitarist Jessie and audience favourite Kieran on the low end duties.

Ekko Park opened with intensity. Three tunes from the back catalogue that bled from one to the next without a moment to catch the breath. The abrasiveness of the playing, the volume of sound and the flurry of motion on the stage was intoxicating. It took the audience (and the sound engineer!) a few minutes to adjust. It was a punk rock way to open a set and a welcome reminder of the adrenaline boost and push of the comfort zone that only the louder sorts of live music can offer.

Ekko Park demonstrated their versatility as their set unfolded, equally able to lean into the blackened rooms of underground rock, as they can bring the party to sun-drenched summer festival goers.

The band sprinkled well-chosen covers into the set that reflected their influences. A hastily learnt, yet surprisingly tight Just Like Heaven by The Cure and 11:57 by Elemeno P. Where’s Jai drummer Elliott guesting on the drum stool in the breakdown of 11:57 to deliver some of the most impressive percussive stylings of the evening.

False Embrace soared with a mid tempo beat and shimmering layered guitars, Outrun The Rain packed a surprisingly complex arrangement into a concise and danceable two and a half minutes.

Tea and Toast bounced with a poppy, near rockabilly sensibility. The lyrics cautious and suspect of the emotional hooks laid by consumer capitalism; selling you insanity under the guise of reality. Joe introducing the song with an acknowledgement of the generational divide between himself and the younger musicians gracing the stage before him. Expressing both genuine admiration for them and an only half-joking fuck your tik-tok!

The emotional height of the evening came when Joe delivered an intimate performance of the new EP’s closer The North. Just like the recording, it was delivered with just his voice and a clean electric guitar. I love the sadness and discomfort that this song provokes, and I was compelled to play it several times over with my full attention upon its release a couple of months back.

Ekko Park

Joe is an Irishman who has made his home in Aotearoa as an adult. I’d interpreted The North as being about returning for a visit to the people and the lands where he grew up and struggling to connect authentically with his origins due to years abroad. The way Joe introduced and performed The North however, suggested something darker and more traumatic was lurking in those origins. He explained that the song had only been performed live once before; under the instruction of Gin Wigmore (because you don’t say no to Gin Wigmore!). It was being played again last night with the encouragement of his bandmates, potentially for the last time. Joe looked drained performing it, but I’m so pleased that he did. I listened to the recording again with fresh ears this morning and reconfirmed that this is the most affecting song I have heard so far this year. I hope he can summon the energy or find an angle on the song that allows him to include it again in future sets.

The band regrouped on stage and blasted through the final portion of the set, reaching the crescendo with the superb Phase Her from the new EP. The band builds the song gently at first; Jessie’s delay drenched single notes and Nick’s shuffling drum pattern over a simple modulated rhythm guitar progression. The dynamics lead the listener into an anthemic chorus before a progressive and jam heavy outro. The final couple of minutes are dominated by Jessie’s lead guitar, her playing is nuanced and refined. Highly skilled without being flashy; favouring a sense of expression and dissonance over technical proficiency (which she no doubt also possesses). She leans in towards the drumkit, drawing energy from her bandmates, eyes hidden under her baseball cap. Cool as hell.

Feedback reigned as the song finished. A highly satisfying set from a band that continues to deliver.

Chris Warne

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Warne:

Ekko Park:

Fan Club:

Where’s Jai: